Sound off: Judge’s de­ci­sion prompts ‘quiet protest’ at court­house

The Taos News - - FRONT PAGE - By Cody Hooks chooks@taos­ The Taos News

Taoseños were sur­prised Wed­nes­day (Aug. 22) when a con­spic­u­ous mon­u­ment ap­peared in the park­ing lot of the Taos County Ad­min­is­tra­tive Com­plex: a 50-foot trailer mounted with a replica of the Lib­erty Bell that’s flanked on ei­ther side by a Sty­ro­foam tablet in­scribed with the Ten Com­mand­ments.

The “Trav­el­ing Lib­erty Bell and Law Me­mo­rial” is owned by Tom White of East­land, Texas, who brought the bell and tablet replica to Taos after hear­ing about the “fer­vor all over the state of New Mex­ico if not the coun­try” caused by a judge’s de­ci­sion to re­lease de­fen­dants in the high-pro­file case stem­ming from an Aug. 3 raid of a com­pound near Amalia in far western Taos County.

“I’m not try­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple what to think, but for them to make up their own minds if the rul­ing of the judge is cor­rect or not,” White said.

District Judge Sarah Backus re­leased the de­fen­dants charged with child abuse, ar­gu­ing the state had not proven they were a threat to the com­mu­nity. How­ever, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj re­mains in cus­tody on a war­rant is­sued out of Ge­or­gia. Backus’ Aug. 13 de­ci­sion sparked an im­me­di­ate back­lash, es­pe­cially on­line. Sev­eral peo­ple called the court­house to make threats against her, and the com­plex was evac­u­ated be­cause of it.

“The state Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides that crim­i­nal de­fen­dants may be de­tained in jail pre­trial only if prose­cu­tors show by clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that they are so dan­ger­ous that no re­lease con­di­tions will rea­son­ably pro­tect pub­lic safety. The judge ruled that prose­cu­tors failed to meet that bur­den,” read a state­ment from New Mex­ico Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice of the Courts spokesper­son Barry Massey.

White con­sid­ers his trav­el­ing dis­play a quiet protest. A sign hang­ing from the trailer read, “Ju­di­cial tyranny?” He told The Taos News he thinks Backus’ de­ci­sion was “a bad rul­ing.”

“We are a coun­try founded on law — the Ten Com­mand­ments — and we have lib­erty be­cause of law,” said White, who said the dis­play has been to 26 states and used in hun­dreds of mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment fu­ner­als.

A Taos County of­fi­cial in­structed White to move his trailer by 2 p.m. White drove the trailer to a church park­ing lot south on Paseo del Pue­blo Norte around 3 p.m. He plans to stay in Taos un­til Fri­day morn­ing.

Rick Ro­mancito

Tom White, of East­land, Texas, brought the “Trav­el­ing Lib­erty Bell and Law Me­mo­rial” to the Taos County court­house and com­plex for a quiet protest Wed­nes­day (Aug. 22) of a re­cent high­pro­file rul­ing.

Rick Ro­mancito

Tom White ex­plains the rea­son for his quiet protest in front of the Taos County com­plex and court­house Wed­nes­day (Aug. 22).

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